Meatless Mondays: Healthy Apple Favorites

There are many many things I love about Fall.

Boots. Scarves. Brightly colored leaves. Cooler cuddle-worthy weather.

And my personal fave, apples.

Just look at these beauties.

lots-of-apples.jpg

Dreamy.

I took my love for apples to a new level of obsession with my apple recipe series last fall. In my search for Meatless Monday recipes in the archive, I realized that this would be the perfect time to bring these dishes back to the blog and hopefully onto your Pinterest boards for some healthy fall cooking inspiration.

If you’re planning on going apple picking or if you’re looking to try something new, then take a look at the links below!

Four of my five recipes in this series are completely meatless and they’re perfect for a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner or treat (there’s pie after all).

This Apple, Goat Cheese, and Pecan Pizza on Multigrain Crust is an easy way to combine some truly amazing fall flavors on a healthy crust. I topped this pizza with arugula to give the pizza a peppery finish, but you can use spinach or dandelion greens if that strikes your fancy. Also, if you’re going completely gluten-free or paleo, how about you try a cauliflower crust instead?

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Pizza

Looking for an easy breakfast recipe that’s perfect if you’re on the go and looking for an alternative to the eggs and bacon routine? Then check out these Healthy Oatmeal Apple Muffins, courtesy of the genius behind Cookie + Kate. My previous experience with her recipes inspired me to give these muffins a try and they were a definite hit for the week. Mental note to self: make these again immediately.

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Muffins

Butter can be healthy, especially when it’s made from apples. I’m a huge fan of fruit spreads and jams. Unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment (or the time or patience) to work on making my own fruit preserves each season. When I found this recipe for Unsweetened Apple Butter, I knew this was the perfect way to break in my brand new slow-cooker. And the results? PHENOMENAL. No, seriously. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. You won’t regret it, I promise you. Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Butter

And then there’s pie.

Check out my recipe for Deep Dish Apple Pie with a lighter, reduced fat crust. For all you pie lovers out there, I don’t really need to explain myself here. You don’t have to wait for Meatless Monday to enjoy a slice of pie, especially one that’s truly delicious and healthy to boot. Consider this a comfort food treat featuring the very best of Fall. Plus, I offer some baking tips if this is your first time making pastry dough or baking pie. I’ve made many pies and this pie pictured here? Best one ever.

Meatless Monday 10-14-13 Pie

Feeling tempted to pick up some extra apples this week to give these recipes a try? You’re not alone. Happy Meatless Monday folks!!!

Remember to keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

In Case of Emergency, Eat Paleo Brownies

Here we go again. A little over a year after the frenzied buildup to the somewhat overblown threat of Hurricane Irene, New York is now under siege by Sandy, the latest in strange weather-related phenomena striking the city with alarming regularity that I’ve never seen before. Hurricanes? Tornadoes? That crazy earthquake last year? I’m not a paranoid person, but December 2012 is around the corner….

Crazy conspiracies aside, I do acknowledge that precautions are necessary and I should be taking this storm seriously. Note that I said should. Luckily I live in Zone C which on the crazily colored evacuation map drawn up by our local government means that I’m not in danger of flooding. I do live about 2 blocks away from Zone A which is in the most danger for storm surges, so I’m relying on our leaders who’ve decided that the 2 block distance will protect me from the worst of the storm. That and the fact that I live on the 19th floor in a high-rise building made of brick, steel, and cement.

Since I’m not in immediate risk of being thrown out of my apartment by the powers that be for a mandatory evacuation, I decided to do the next best thing. Check my flashlights and batteries? No. Run to the supermarket and pick up almond milk and eggs after standing in line for over an hour to pay for my purchases? Heck no. I’m baking, obviously.

Without further ado, I present to you this hastily thrown together mish mash of what’s in my pantry, otherwise known as the MOST AWESOME flourless brownies of all time! And they’re paleo and gluten free!

ALMOND BUTTER PUMPKIN COCONUT BROWNIES

The original recipe can be found on  This Primal Life which features a crazy simple 5-ingredient list, but I decided to jazz it up with some fun extras.

Here’s my ingredient list:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond butter
  • ¾ cup mashed pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Grease an 8in x 8in metal pan with coconut oil. Pour the batter into the greased pan and place in the oven. Allow it to bake for about 25 minutes. And that’s it! Done!

I figure if the power goes out and I’m left eating whatever is leftover in the fridge, then at least I have some brownies to look forward to. Plus, they’re packable. Take that Sandy! 🙂

My Pretty Apron: Kale Soup for the Blogger Soul

There’s a chill in the air. I’m bundled up in sweaters and covered in scarves. My Birkenstocks have been retired in favor of my boots.  It’s officially Fall.

With Fall comes shorter days, cold nights and the urge to wrap in blankets with a bowl of something warm to eat. I love comfort food, especially if its of the soup persuasion. It’s my go-to for a quick meal to help ward off the cold and a tasty way to incorporate healthy, hearty vegetables into my diet. From stews to broths to the incredibly satisfying and filling Dominican sancocho that my beloved mother is famous for, there are countless ways to get that bowl and spoon working and I plan on illustrating that here on My Pretty Apron.

SPOONS UP! SWEET POTATO, SAUSAGE, AND KALE SOUP

I really wanted to do a recipe with kale this week and this was the perfect opportunity to to make a quick and healthy soup. I’ve actually never made kale. I’ve never even eaten kale. I’m going into this completely blind which is kind of fun. Shrugging my shoulders, I’m tying on my new fun fall apron and getting started on dinner.

Inspirations….well, there were a few. Cold weather for starters. Also, this week I heard something funny about kale on TV and that helped push me here. We have a 24-hr news network here in NY called NY1 which I watch religiously in the pre-dawn hours before I go to work. One of the anchors, Pat Kiernan, has this wry sense of humor that usually gets me to chuckle. Even more entertaining is his banter with Jamie Shupack, the traffic reporter. Typical morning-news stuff. Anyway, earlier this week Pat and Jamie were talking about Jamie’s upcoming dinner party and how she planned on serving kale chips. Pat looks completely dumbfounded and asks a question I couldn’t help thinking myself. “Where did kale come from?” asks Pat. He goes on, “A year ago, no one even heard of kale and now it’s all anyone talks about. You know what? There’s too much kale in New York!” I burst out laughing, probably due to the pre-caffeine delirium I was experiencing that early in the morning. But it did make me think that he had a point. Where did kale come from all of a sudden? Kale is the IT vegetable. It’s the new black. And like all fashion trends, I’m late to the table.

Lastly, this Cooking Light recipe adapts a classic Portuguese dish that I’d heard about on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on Travel Channel. Bourdain’s show is one of my obsessions so it’s really cool to reference it directly for a recipe. The traditional dish is called caldo verde or green broth and has onions, kale, chorizo, and potatoes. Caldo verde is typically eaten during a celebration like a wedding or birthday and is considered the national dish of Portugal. It’s not my birthday but I figure the fact that its one day to the weekend is reason enough to eat celebratory soup.

FOOD4THOUGHTNYC’s NUTRITION FACTOIDS

I normally list all sorts of nutritional facts and tidbits in this section but I decided to give you guys a visual instead. It’s pretty and it gets all the main points across. Look and learn!

Needless to say, kale is SUPER good for you and a great way to pump up the nutritional content of whatever you’re cooking. Kale is also a cruciferous vegetable (mentioned previously when I researched arugula) which means it has anti-cancer compounds and helps regulate our immune system. Kale is in season in Fall and Winter due to their hardiness. Make sure you’re choosing dark green leaves with thinner stalks and be sure to wash thoroughly beforehand.

Alright, the sun is beginning to dip into the horizon which means its time to get started….

Here are the ingredients:

Note: One of the reasons I chose this particular recipe was for the sweet potatoes. I prefer soups that have a starchy component like potatoes, and I happened to have a few that I needed to use fairly soon. Also the recipe calls for turkey sausage but I couldn’t find any. The closest I could find was a chicken & turkey sweet Italian sausage. More of my thoughts on that later.

Now is my favorite part of any meal: the prep. That was sarcasm, by the way. Prep is a necessary evil nonetheless so take the time to chop up the sweet potato, onions, and garlic. Also rinse the kale and set it to drain on the side.

Place a heavy iron pot or dutch oven over a a medium-high heat on the stove and heat 2tbsps of extra-virgin olive oil. Once hot, place the chopped onions in the pot and saute for about 5 minutes. Then add the sliced garlic, salt and cracked pepper and then saute for another minute or so.

The sausage I bought was not in a casing so I chopped it up into pieces before adding it to the pot with the onions. I let the meat cook for about five minutes and then added the sweet potato, water, and chicken stock. Let it come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 8-10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, prepare the kale. You always need to remove the tough stem first. The easiest way to do that is to take your knife and cut along the stem towards the top where it begins and to cut it away from the leaves on both sides. You should be left with the stem completely separated from the leaves by the end. Tear up the kale and set to the side.

Once the sweet potato is cooked through, gradually add the torn kale into the soup. You want to cook it until it’s tender, about five minutes should do. At this point you can add the cannelini beans (always remember to rinse canned beans to get rid of any excess sodium!) and a bit of salt to taste. Cook for another five minutes and then, that’s it! Done! Super easy, one-pot cooking is where it’s at!

During my visit to Whole Foods Market today I found myself in the bakery aisle and this beauty gave me a ‘come hither’ stare. I couldn’t resist it. And it was fresh and still warm from the oven. I mean, come on! I had to have it. I’m sure there’s some kind of psychological food-brain-response-trigger process -thingy that happens when we smell baking bread that makes us salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. One day I’ll look into it, but for now I decided this Quinoa Flax Seed Whole Wheat bread was just the ticket for my soup.

PS- For my GF friends, there are a number of bread alternatives out there. I’m sure you already know this, but here are some suggestions if you’re looking to try something new.

Dinner is served. 🙂

This soup was great! Yummy and filling and it hits that spot, you know? I do have one note to make. The sausage I bought was chosen based on an attempt to adhere to the recipe which was a mistake in my opinion. I usually go off and do my own thing when I’m cooking but since this was my first time working with kale I was a bit nervous to veer in the wrong direction. Therein was my problem. I was at the market with Spanish chorizo in one hand and the sausage in the other and I felt chorizo was the better bet, but we all know what I ended up with. Now, the soup was good. The sausage gave it a richer flavor and I didn’t want to make this vegetarian so I didn’t think about leaving it out altogether. But I think the chorizo would’ve given it a more…well-rounded flavor. Ah well. This was a good exercise in trusting my instincts in the kitchen.

So there you have it! The first of hopefully many more soups to come. Hope you all enjoyed  tonight’s recipe. Stay warm!! 🙂

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